________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 1 . . . . August 29, 2008

cover In a Flash. (Orca Currents).

Eric Walters.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2008.
108 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc).
ISBN 978-1-55469-034-3 (pbk.),
ISBN 978-1-55469-035-0 (hc.).

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Devon Greyson.

**½ /4

Reviewed from Advance Reading Copy.


There was playful combat everywhere. I didn't have time to look around, but there had to be close to a hundred people around me, yelling, laughing, and swinging their pillows.

On the edges of the battle other people watched. There were grown-ups holding their kids by the hand or loaded down with shopping bags, looking stunned or amused or confused. Some laughed and pointed, and others hurried away like they were scared. There had to be almost as many people watching as there were participating.

One of the pillows burst and a million white feathers shot into the air like a billowing cloud! The crowd—watching and fighting—erupted into gasps and screams and laughter.

There was a loud whistle blast—Oswald, signaling the end.

I dropped my pillow to the floor as did everybody else. I looked around, trying to find Julia in the crowd, as everybody instantly started t run away, going in every direction out of the bedding section.

I caught sight of her. “Julia! This way!” I yelled.

Julia ran over, and I grabbed her by the hand as we started running. We slipped between the onlookers, breaking free.


Ian Cheevers and his best buddy Oswald aren't building their leadership skills by running for student government. Rather, they go online and organize flash mobs, events in which groups of people meet up in a public place, do something unexpected for a few minutes, and then disperse. They might all meet up on a train platform and begin clapping or suddenly burst into a pillow fight in a department store, just for the fun of it. Julia, simultaneously the high school's self-righteous student president, Oswald's ex-girlfriend, and Ian's secret crush, thinks flash mobs are pointless. Ian is dead set on impressing Julia with flash mobs that carry real social impact, but Julia is a tough customer.

      Enter the school's new principal. Mr. Roberts is militant and determined to restore order to the school by any means necessary. He carries a baseball bat for intimidating hooligans, a camera for photographing loiterers, and a pocket for confiscated iPods. When Julia runs afoul of Mr. Roberts and gets suspended for orchestrating a boycott of school from her Facebook page, it is up to Ian to use his leadership skills to organize his best flash mob yet – one that will make Mr. Roberts reconsider his actions.

      Notwithstanding the technological focus, In a Flash tells a fairly simple and straightforward story. The trio of main characters is believable, and their dynamics are very realistic. The language doesn't stick out as simplistic even though the reading level is 3.1. The book moves along at a nice clip, with the periodic flash mobs providing colourful episodes of action to break up the main character's internal drama. The one major flaw to this otherwise perfectly nice tween/young teen hi-lo novel is the terribly saccharine and unbelievable ending in which a totalitarian principal not only uncharacteristically pardons the main character for interfering with authority, but Mr. Roberts even breaks his own school rules and joins a flash mob himself.

      The flash mobs highlighted in the book are all actions that readers may recognize – one has even been featured in an anti-tobacco television commercial. The book might have more appeal if it held some cool original ideas, or at least ones not as widely recognized. True hipster teens, already well aware of the flash mob phenomenon, may turn up their noses at flash mobs as passé, but such readers are likely too old for the book's interpersonal themes anyway.

      Despite my reservations about the book’s rapidly becoming dated and the too-sunshiny ending, the novel is overall a good read about run-of-the-mill urban/suburban kids today. It might even inspire some online activism among young readers.


Devon Greyson is a librarian at the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research in Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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